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The notes from nature tool for unlocking biodiversity records from museum records through citizen science

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Hill, A., Guralnick, R., Smith, A., Sallans, A., Gillespie, R., Denslow, M., Gross, J., Murrell, Z., Conyers, T., Oboyski, O., Ball, J., Thomer, A., Prys-Jones, R., de Torre, J., Kociolek, P., & Fortson, L. (2012). The notes from nature tool for unlocking biodiversity records from museum records through citizen science. ZooKeys, 2012(209), 219–233. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.209.3472

Publication Abstract

Legacy data from natural history collections contain invaluable and irreplaceable information about biodiversity in the recent past, providing a baseline for detecting change and forecasting the future of biodiversity on a human-dominated planet. However, these data are often not available in formats that facilitate use and synthesis. New approaches are needed to enhance the rates of digitization and data quality improvement. Notes from Nature provides one such novel approach by asking citizen scientists to help with transcription tasks. The initial web-based prototype of Notes from Nature is soon widely available and was developed collaboratively by biodiversity scientists, natural history collections staff, and experts in citizen science project development, programming and visualization. This project brings together digital images representing different types of biodiversity records including ledgers , herbarium sheets and pinned insects from multiple projects and natural history collections. Experts in developing web-based citizen science applications then designed and built a platform for transcribing textual data and metadata from these images. The end product is a fully open source web transcription tool built using the latest web technologies. The platform keeps volunteers engaged by initially explaining the scientific importance of the work via a short orientation, and then providing transcription “missions” of well defined scope, along with dynamic feedback, interactivity and rewards. Transcribed records, along with record-level and process metadata, are provided back to the institutions.  While the tool is being developed with new users in mind, it can serve a broad range of needs from novice to trained museum specialist. Notes from Nature has the potential to speed the rate of biodiversity data being made available to a broad community of users.

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